One of my favorite childhood Christmas presents was an Evel Knievel toy motorcycle that you would power up by hand.

After revving it up for 5 to 10 seconds, the toy motorbike -  with a helmeted Evel Knievel doll would launch across the living room over a homemade ramp and launch into a pyramid of empty soda pop cans.


After seeing the TV commercial, the toy was every kid's MUST-have gift from Santa in the mid-1970s.


Before He was Evel Knievel

Robert Craig Knievel was born on October 17th, 1938 in Butte, Montana.

When he was almost 2 years old, his mom & dad; Robert and Ann divorced and left town, leaving both him and his one-year-old brother Nic in the custody of Ignatius and Emma Knievel - their maternal grandparents.

Inspired to Become a Daredevil

The Joie Chitwood Thrill Show came to Butte, Montana when young Robert Knievel was eight. The show featured dangerous death-defying automobile stunts. The featured stunt: A ramp-to-ramp jump with a car. Evel Knievel shared, later in life, that this made a huge impression on him.

How did Robert Knievel get the famous name Evel Knievel?

Legend has it that as a young man, Rober Knievel took a job with the Anaconda Mine. After some time, he was promoted to driving an earth mover, The promotion didn't last long.

'Knievel was fired when he made the earth mover do a motorcycle-type wheelie and accidentally drove it into Butte's main power line, leaving the city without electricity for several hours.' -The Economist


Knievel's nickname was born in 1956. The young 17-year-old Robert Knievel spent a night in jail after being arrested for reckless driving. Sharing the jail cell with Knievel was a man named William Knofel, nicknamed “Awful Knofel."

This inspired Knievel to rename himself “Evel Knievel”

The Move from Montana to Moses Lake

In the late 50s, young Evel Knievel participated in rodeos and ski-jumping. He won the 1959 Northern Rocky Mountain Ski Association Class A Men's ski jumping championship. He eventually met his first wife, Linda - and welcomed his first son Kelly. He had various interests as a hunting guide, creating the Butte Bombers hockey team (that he played on,) and spending time with a motocross circuit. All these endeavors weren't cutting it - he needed to pay the bills.

This led to Evel Knievel's entry into finding a job with an insurance agency. After finding success and not getting what he wanted - a position as company vice president, Evel Knievel moved the family to Moses Lake, Washington to start a Honda motorcycle dealership at 324 W 3rd Avenue.

The site of Evel Knievel's Moses Lake Honda Motorcycle Dealership CREDIT: Google Street View
The site of Evel Knievel's Moses Lake Honda Motorcycle Dealership CREDIT: Google Street View

Evel Knievel lived in a modest small home at 425 Ridge Road in Moses Lake.

425 Ridge Road, Moses Lake CREDIT: Google Street View
425 Ridge Road, Moses Lake CREDIT: Google Street View

It was in 1965 - in Moses Lake Washington that Evel Knievel set out on his first motorcycle jump to promote his Moses Lake dealership.

In an attempt to draw attention to his Honda dealership, Knievel kicked off a stunt show that featured wheelies and motorcycle jumps. His first jump was over a wooden crate of rattlesnakes and a tethered mountain lion. He came up short, shattering the crate and freeing the slithering creatures. - The Topeka Capital-Journal

Due to an eventual lack of sales, Evel Knievel's Moses Lake Honda dealership eventually closed for good. His time in Grant County had some bumps and bruises as described in a recent story.

Evel Knievel at his Moses Lake Honda Dealership 1968 CREDIT Evel Knievel (via Facebook)
Evel Knievel at his Moses Lake Honda Dealership 1968 CREDIT Evel Knievel (via Facebook)

Rocket Ride to 1970s Super Celebrity

After the closure of his Moses Lake motorcycle dealership, Evel Knievel and his family relocated to Sunnyside, Washington. He landed a job at Don Pomeroy's motorcycle shop. Don's son, Jim, a motocross champ taught Evel Knievel his eventual signature move - the Wheelie while standing on top of his seat.

Evel Knievel's eventual iconic jump attempts at Caesars Palace, The Snake River, and the Grand Canyon gripped the world's attention in the 1970s.

INFO: The Economist, The Smithsonian

The Highest-Grossing Movies of All Time (Domestic)

Here are the top ten top-grossing movies in the United States in the entire history of movies.

These Are The Best Thanksgiving Specials of All Time

Here are the absolute best Thanksgiving TV specials, including some with a very Texas Twist.

Gallery Credit: Charlie Hardin



More From KW3